Georgetown Goes on Big East Rampage

Times Staff Writer

Get a muzzle. Better yet, get the National Guard. The Beast of the East, those lovable Hoyas from Georgetown, escaped Saturday from midtown Manhattan, leaving behind a trail of terror.

And the bad news is this: the Beast is still hungry. The basketball world awaits, with understandable trepidation. It's seen this act before.

Georgetown (30-2) got its postseason roll officially under way Saturday by punishing St. John's, 92-80, to win the Big East championship. And this was supposed to be a showdown, remember. Act III of a basketball drama.

But there was no drama. Oh, there were punches thrown, players ejected, five technical fouls called and various objects thrown on the Madison Square Garden floor. But no drama. Not a bit of it.

Even with 7-0 Patrick Ewing, simply the most dominating player in the country, limited to 19 minutes because of foul trouble, Georgetown was able to dominate. Ralph Dalton, who has played behind Ewing for four years, played 20 minutes, scored 9 points and grabbed 8 rebounds. St. John's never had a chance.

Quicker and harder working, rougher and tougher, Georgetown owned the boards and led virtually throughout to pick up a 12th consecutive victory as it heads into NCAA tournament play next week. The Hoyas, better known for their defense, shot 57% from the floor, with Bill Martin (18 points), Reggie Williams (14) and Dave Wingate (17) bombing away from outside.

Even St. John's Coach Lou Carnessecca's lucky sweater didn't help. In fact, he said he was going to retire it now.

"The only team that can beat Georgetown is maybe Georgetown," said Brian Mahoney, an awestruck St. John's assistant coach.

St. John's (27-3) had beaten Georgetown once to take over the No. 1 ranking, but that was long ago. Not two weeks ago, the Hoyas beat the Redmen by 16. And now this. There's no question about who is No. 1.

"I think this team is as good as last year's," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said.

Well, you know what happened last year. Georgetown won the NCAA championship, and no one is saying the Hoyas can't do it again. Especially not after Saturday night. Not even Thompson.

"Patrick came over to get me to cut the strings down," Thompson said of the postgame celebration. "I told him those weren't the strings I wanted."

On Saturday, Georgetown could have whatever it wanted. The Hoyas out-rebounded the Redmen, 36-19. The Hoyas outscored them, 21-4, on points off the offensive boards. They beat them every way. Yes, every way.

One night after Ewing and Syracuse's Pearl Washington exchanged punches, Georgetown was back in the thick of it. In the first half, Perry McDonald was called for an intentional foul for bumping St. John's All-American guard Chris Mullin, who led all scorers with 25 points. In the second, Georgetown's Reggie Williams and St. John's Ron Rowan were ejected for fighting. They had been elbowing each other, and Williams threw a punch.

Afterward, Carnesecca was joking about Georgetown's physical style of play. Apparently, better to laugh.

"Wouldn't you want those boys defending our country?" Carnesecca said.

Carnesecca began the game on a light note. He took the floor with perhaps a dozen white towels knotted together, slung over one shoulder in imitation of John Thompson, who has always carries his towel there. Of course, in their last meeting, Thompson had come to the game with a look-alike Carnesecca sweater.

Unfortunately, that was about the last laugh of the evening.

Not five minutes had passed when a technical foul was called on the St. John's bench. Not 10 minutes had passed when McDonald bumped Mullin, against whom Georgetown applied every conceivable defense.

Georgetown was leading, 22-13, at that point when Thompson, protesting loudly, picked up two technical fouls. Mullin made five of six free throws.

That began what would be a long string of free throws as the referees tried to control the game.

"If anyone was to blame, it was probably my fault," said Thompson, who added that he was pretty excited at the time.

Michael Jackson, Thompson's point guard who had 19 points and 8 assists, thought his coach was merely doing some lobbying with the officials.

"When he called us over," Jackson said, "Coach said, 'Don't worry. I've got them exactly where I want them.' "

Of course it worked out that way, but briefly it appeared St. John's might be in the game.

Bill Wennington, St. John's All-League center who had a frustrating night, got a basket to make it 22-20. And with 11:32 to play, Ewing (11 points, 7 rebounds) picked up his third foul.

St. John's went on to tie the game at 28-28, but two free throws by Jackson, a follow shot by Dalton, a free throw by Dalton and the concerns began to abate.

What chance did St. John's have? It took nearly 13 minutes before the Redmen got their first rebound. Trailing by seven at the half, they slipped further behind, even with Ewing out. Wingate hounded Mullin, who got 19 points in the first half and only six on five shots in the second.

It didn't matter that Ewing was sitting. In the first half, Georgetown gained four points while he was on the bench. The same thing happened in the second half.

"I'm never comfortable with Patrick on the bench, but the way Ralph was playing, I had the luxury of keeping him there," Thompson said.

So Dalton plays well and the shooters shoot well, but Georgetown can do it so many ways. This is Thompson's best offensive team, and the defense isn't shabby.

Carnesecca is convinced. His team had beaten Georgetown by a point in January. Syracuse beat the Hoyas by two points two nights later. No one has come close since.

When someone asked Carnesecca if he looked forward to a fourth meeting, the St. John's coach forced a smile.

"Let me think about that a while," he said. "You get hit in the head a couple of times, you think think about it a while."

The basketball world must be thinking along with him.

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